On a misty Saturday morning, ROTC cadets, originating everywhere from Michigan to Tennessee, ran side-by-side along gravel roads in Fort Knox. The cadets were taking part in a three-and-a-half mile foot march, kicking off the annual 7th Brigade Ranger Challenge.
The challenge consisted of 18 task forces, representing 15 universities in the 7th Brigade region, along with three at-large bid teams. Some of the task forces in the competition included Michigan State University, Kent State University, University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University.
The teams competed in a variety of missions on Friday and Saturday and an award ceremony took place on Sunday.
Brigade Commander Col. Lance Oskey said the competition is a major event for all task forces involved.
“This is a considerable focused effort during the fall semester,” Oskey said. “The teams that dominate here are the ones that have developed an organizational culture around the Ranger Challenge so that this isn’t just something that they start on Sept. 1, but it’s something that they kind of work at in different degrees throughout the academic year.”
Cadets competed in several missions to test a variety of aptitude areas, including physical, mental and military challenges. Missions included lifesaving measures, transporting a casualty, situational awareness, resupplying and more. There were 33 missions in total throughout the weekend.
Brigade Commander Sgt. Major Chuck Gregory said the missions are designed to emphasize team work and often are adjusted every year.
“If we continue to do the same thing again and again and we’re not improving it, then the kids that come one, two or three years, they’re seeing the same thing,” he said. “So, we want to give them that constant challenge.”
Saturday missions were bookended by speed marches and the day concluded with a tug of war challenge.
Each task force consisted of at least one cadet from each grade level. Oskey said this variety of experience and skill levels lends itself to an emphasis on team work and leadership, and this can effectively prepare them for a future in the U.S. Army.
“These second lieutenants are going to find themselves in the not-too-distant future leading a small organization, anywhere between 20 and 40 individuals, towards accomplishing a mission and developing training plans and motivating and leading Soldiers toward that end,” he said. “They’re doing the same thing here at a smaller level tailored to their skill sets and the time available within their campus environments.”
Gregory said regardless of the competition’s outcome, the event instills and reflects Army values.
“It shows true team work,” he said. “It shows doing something bigger than yourself. It shows your ability to really push yourself farther than you ever thought you could.”